We demand the freedom of all working class political prisoners in Venezuela

Venezuelan Workers Solidarity

We demand the immediate release of all workers imprisoned for engaging in struggle in defense of their rights, regardless of their political affiliation. We also demand justice for the workers, peasants and other activists murdered or otherwise harmed when engaging in protests, strikes, land repossessions and other actions.

With this statement, we join the #LiberenALosTrabajadoresPresos (Free the Working Class Prisoners) campaign launched by leftist opposition organizations, union activists  and human rights organizations in June 2020 to demand that the Venezuelan government release the dozens of workers currently held as political prisoners.

Nicolás Maduro’s civil-military regime launched an offensive against the working class in 2014, deepening the policy of criminalization of social struggles undertaken by Chávez in 2007. Maduro has deprived hundreds of people of their freedom for political reasons. Many of the victims are public sector workers, but also indigenous people, peasants, students, and activists from popular barrios. Beyond retaliatory firings and forced retirement, or depriving the accused of freedom through home confinement or regimes of court presentations, the government has moved to imprison workers and working class critics in dangerous and filth-ridden penitentiary centers of military and secret police dungeons, subjecting them to forms of torture including beatings and death threats, medical neglect and starvation, solitary confinement, extortion, and denial of family visits.

Below we list some of the emblematic cases of this ongoing abuse of the bourgeois justice system by the Venezuelan government:

  • Rodney Álvarez, independent socialist worker activist at the Ferrominera del Orinoco ironworks, has been imprisoned since 2011. He has not received a sentence, and remains in prison after 8 years against Constitutional habeas corpus norms. He is being used as a scape-goat for a murder committed in plain view by a PSUV trade union leader to disrupt a workers’ assembly. 
  • Alfredo Chirinos and Aryenis Torrealba, jailed this year for denouncing corruption in the state oil company PDVSA. They have been subjected to torture, and Aryenis Torrealba recently contracted COVID.
  • Rubén González, Ferrominera del Orinoco union leader, has been in prison since last year, despite suffering from poor health conditions, for defending workers’ rights.
  • PDV Marina worker Bartolo Guerra was arbitrarily imprisoned earlier this year for having made claims in defense of workers’ rights before military authorities. 
  • Elio Mendoza, a worker at SIDOR, was arrested by military intelligence officials for sending a Whatsapp message criticizing the government. 
  • Tania Rodríguez, illegally fired by the Chavista government last year from Ferrominera del Orinoco, was also deprived of her liberty for criticism through Whatsapp messages.
  • Marcos Sabariego, an oil union leader from the state of Carabobo, was arrested in January by the military while participating in a workers’ assembly, and has been under house arrest ever since. 
  • Dario Salcedo, a union leader in the fishing sector, was arrested in April for criticizing on Twitter the high cost of food and the privileges of the Chavista bureaucracy, pointing out that a bag of food sold by the government, which would cover a week’s consumption, cost five minimum wages. Currently he is under house arrest.

We also demand the unconditional liberation of journalists imprisoned by the General Directorate of Military Counter-Intelligence for “incitement to hatred” under newly created legislation to criminalize dissent, including:

  • Javier Vivas Santana, columnist at the chavista website Aporrea.org, currently held in DGCIM dungeons, arrested for the content of his opinion articles. He has suffered seizures and lost over 30 kgs. Family members report that he has been tortured.
  • Nicmer Evans, a former member of Marea Socialista and director of the Punto de Corte online newspaper. He has been held in DGCIM dungeons after being arbitrarily detained.

Labor relations in the last decade have suffered a tremendous regression into semislavery and the minimum wage has been destroyed, standing at barely $2 a month. These gruesome conditions can only be imposed through widespread repression; this is why the military regime resorts to this persecution. We urge international trade unions and leftist organizations to join us in demanding the unconditional liberation of all political prisoners and respect for union liberties. 

It is important to remember that as a mechanism to contain popular responses to the crisis, starting in 2014, the Maduro government ramped up policies of mass incarceration and murderous police raids. Most prisoners are locked up despite the absence of firm sentence in trial, well beyond the terms allowed in the Constitution. Prisons in Venezuela are overcrowded, ruled by gangs or arbitrary military bureaucrats, with extortion ruling access to food, water and space. Political prisoners are either placed in these penitentiary centers, or otherwise confined in the dungeons of the SEBIN (Bolivarian Intelligence Service) or the DGCIM (Military Counter-Intelligence).

We demand an end to the imprisonment of activists under the Law Against Hatred or any other spurious legal mechanisms.

Justice and truth for Alcedo Mora, who was forcibly disappeared in Mérida alongside Esneider and Eliecer Vergel on February 25 of 2015. 

Justice for the Cacique Sabino Romero of the Perijá highlands Yukpa indigenous people, murdered on March 3rd of 2013, and his son Silverio Romero, severely wounded in an assassination attempt.

Justice for Richard Gallardo, Luis Hernández and Carlos Requena, leaders of the National Workers’ Union in Maracay, Aragua, murdered in 2007.

Justice for Renny Rojas, Ferrominera worker, murdered in 2011 by PSUV trade union leader Hector Maicán.

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